Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Job Seeker’s Game

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, companies are beefing up their recruiting staffs as hiring demands increase.  We’ve got three tips that can help job seekers become job candidates in the eyes of recruiters… and any hiring person for that matter.

During a job search process, the little things can make or break you.  It’s true, though perhaps unfortunately so.  Little petty aspects of job search etiquette may have nothing to do with whether or not you’re qualified.  Yet, the ability to play the job seeker’s “game” can help unqualified candidates score the job, or qualified candidates be dismissed before the interview even starts.  So, make sure you understand how to play the game smartly.  What are the rules?  Well, you can find them most anywhere online with a quick Google Search, but we’ll provide three crucial ones here.  Just remember, if you can check each of these boxes, you’ve got one foot in the door and a leg up on candidates who don’t know how to play the game.

1. Have a great resume.  Find an excellent resume to use as an example, and model your resume after it, if necessary, using your own personal information and job experience, of course.  Your resume needs structure.  It should fit on one page, unless you have numerous publications.  Your resume should be professional.  No matter how suited you are for the job, recruiters won’t know if your resume is confusing, grammatically incorrect, or poorly laid out. Most importantly, your short and long-term goals - and how your goals can benefit an employer, should be easily identifiable.

2. Be findable.  When we say findable, we mean findable online.  You need a professional LinkedIn and Facebook profile with prominent contact information.  When you Google your name, these profiles should appear in the search results. Even better if you a have a blog about your profession or industry, or even about a hobby that shows you to be a well-rounded, committed individual.  Basically, in the days of the Internet, if you’re not findable online, recruiters won’t find you.  Treat yourself like a business, and develop a positive online presence.

3. Be warm.  Being warm might be one of the biggest indicators of career success.  Know how to relate to people on a human level, communicate empathy, and be genuine.  Not everyone will be the loudest talker in the room, but you can find your own way to communicate understanding and intelligence.

If you can master an excellent resume, a positive online presence, and warmth, you're much closer to a great job and a fulfilling career.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our Wish for You This Holiday Season.

May you fully absorb all the lights and good cheer
Like you did as a child, near the end of each year
When the simplest gifts were the ones you most treasured
And time spent with friends was how each day was measured.
May traditions recapture your best childhood moments
May your gifts all arrive with no missing components.
May you welcome the New Year by staying up late
And celebrate the new opportunities you’ll create!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Five Common Scenes from the Office During the Holidays

1. You play White Elephant.  One co-worker brings a framed photograph of Burt Reynolds; another co-worker brings one of those infomercial devices for which you clap once to turn on the lights, and twice to turn them off.  Someone inevitably brings an enormous holiday-themed can of popcorn.  The lucky players end up with an iTunes or Starbucks gift card in the amount of the price limit you set.  The unluckiest ends up with a used company sweatshirt.

2. You get at least 10 emails per week that read something like this:  “Hey guys. I’ve got a whole box full of leftover peanut brittle at my desk. Come get it at Cubicle 37.”  Or, “Christmas cookies in the kitchen. Help yourselves!”  You manage to restrain yourself until around 11am, until which time you give in and eat the sweets. Yum!

3. Cubicle decorating.  We all have at least one co-worker who loves to decorate.  Perpetually spirited, they deck the halls – or, fabric walls – with garland, lights, and greeting cards.  They buy miniature trees to adorn their desks.  They fill bowls with shiny-wrapped candy, and they bring reindeer-topped cupcakes to work.  You look at your own somewhat bare desk and wonder why you didn’t think to purchase one of those rosemary plants trimmed in the shape of a tree.  You go to the spirited cube-decorator with a work-related question just so you can hang out in his or her cube.

4. Christmas sweater wearers.  They are not going to a tacky Christmas sweater party.  They are not joking.  They are simply being their festive selves.  Red-nosed reindeer embroidery, jingle bell earrings, and all.

5. Days before the office officially closes for the holidays, you experience dead silence.  Many people have left early for vacation.  You either feel you, too, should not be at work, or you may take the opportunity to get a lot done with few distractions.  Either way, you work with the lovely anticipation of time off about to start!

Happy Holiday Season from our workplace to yours!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Firms Feel Pain From Healthcare Law

More uncertainty and scrambling from firms as they prepare to implement the new healthcare law.  The only certain effects are increased costs and administrative burdens, according to this article from Wall Street Journal.

A few takes from the article:
  • Companies are hiring more consultants (20% more) to help them sort through the new mandates and enormous volume of paperwork as well as comprehend the 2,400 pages of the document.
  • In 2018, a tax kicks in on employers with plans whose costs exceed certain levels.  Firms like software maker SAS Institute Inc are shifting costs to employees in order to get under the threshold.
  • An Ernst & Young survey of 381 executives found that 31% of executives are most concerned about compliance with the law, while 16% are most concerned about their preparedness to comply.
Firms must wait in the dark about additional coming changes, as well as their financial and cultural implications, while regulators continue to shape other aspects of the law.

We predict more firms choosing staffing companies to ease the burden of these new administrative- and healthcare-associated costs.

Do you think firms are prepared to handle the new health law? Do you think these changes are for the better, or worse?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bosses' Small Gestures Send Big Signals

From the Wall Street Journal, this article explains why bosses must be extra aware of their behavior.  So many eyes are on these leaders that even the smallest gestures – of which bosses may not even be aware – affect and influence others.

We have some thoughts about this!  But bear with us for a second.

A high level executive walks down the hall and passes a few subordinates.  She doesn’t know them well and is in a hurry, so she doesn’t make eye contact.  These employees DO know her, and they spend the rest of the day wondering what they did to earn her disapproval.

Or she wears her scarf arranged in a bow, and the next day several employees are wearing their scarves the exact same way.


Basically, if you’re a boss, you have influence you may not even be aware of – but you should be, because you can use that influence to help or harm.

We completely agree.  But we’d take it a step further.  It isn’t only high-level management or big bosses who need to be concerned with their behavior and realize it’s affect on others.

We are all the influencers of someone.  We are all being watched.  People notice the
tiniest details, yet we so often forget this fact.  What we wear, how hard we work, the quality of our work, whether or not we smile and say hi, complain, compliment others, arrive on time, what we eat for lunch - it’s all quite noticeable and assists your co-workers, bosses, employees, and colleagues in forming opinions about who you are.

Every single day presents constant opportunities to be a positive influencer.  To act in ways which earn your self-respect and the respect of others.  The best way to lead is by example.  If you set a good example, you naturally become a leader, whether you realize it or not.

Who do you try to influence? Is there anyone in your life for whom you strive to be a good example?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

To Extend or Not to Extend

The White House and Congress have been trying to reach a consensus over whether or not to extend two things: unemployment benefits and Bush-era tax cuts.  As has been the case with much of the legislative discussions during a “divided” time, the two issues are apparently contingent upon each other, rather than the needs of the nation.


But we digress.  Here, today, we’re focusing on the pros and cons of extending unemployment benefits.  Here’s what we’ve come up with.

PRO: Anyone who has been out of work for an extended period of time understands how scary it would be to know the one lifeline you have to paying your bills and taking care of your loved ones is about to go away.  Throw in a recession with a poor employment outlook, and amplify that fear accordingly.

CON: Are we, by continuing to pay unemployment, encouraging these long-term unemployed individuals to stay that way rather than accept a lower-paying job?

PRO: Money we give to the unemployed will be spent quickly and put back into the economy immediately… which is a good thing, at least in the interim, for the economy.

CON: The mental health and self-esteem of people who go for long stretches of time without some type of full time job suffers.  Even if the job is something simple, just having a purpose can make a big difference.

CON: Are we looking at a repeat of the 1970s, where people stayed on welfare for decades?

CON: The US government doesn’t have any money to pay these benefits with.  We’ll likely borrow and add to our national debt.

PRO: Unlike previous and current Washington D.C. expenditures, at least with unemployment benefits, we know where the money is going – to people, goods, and services that may keep our economy from getting worse.

Or will it?  It seems cruel to take this lifeline away from good people in unfortunate situations and an unfortunate economy.  Yet people have a way of becoming resourceful when they’re required to do so.   And nothing inspires creativity like rock bottom.  If passiveness got us into this situation, maybe only proactive determination will get us out.

What do you think? Should Congress extend unemployment benefits?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Five Sure Ways to Stay Motivated at Work

1. Make a list of the tasks you want to accomplish each new day.  Make each task specific and doable, not vague and over-reaching (think, “research the latest industry trends and compile a rough list,” not “do industry trends report”).  Put little boxes beside each item on the list.  This is where your checkmark will go when you’ve completed each task.  You’ll feel great as you put a checkmark in each box, trust us!  At the end of the day, even if your inbox is full, your checklist is in order, and you’ll feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

2. Drink water. We know it sounds too simple, but drinking water while you work keeps you awake, makes you feel better physically and mentally, and actually keeps you in shape!  All of these things make you a more motivated worker.

3. Always, always have something in your life you look forward to.  Also known as a reward.  Don’t expect or wait for others to reward you.  Rewards from bosses, like trust and promotions, do come, as part of the long-term payoff of hard work.  But everyone needs a little instant gratification.  So you fill your life with fun things, and keep these in the back of your mind as you work.   Work solid for two hours, then browse your favorite blog for a few minutes.  Work hard during the day, knowing you’re going to try an awesome new restaurant that night, or watch a movie with your family.  Work hard during the week, and you’ll enjoy the weekend trip you have planned so much more, because you really earned it.  Take responsibility for filling your life with simple pleasures, and you’ll be a happier, more motivated person!

4. Write your own obituary and keep it in your desk for reference.  This admittedly strange-sounding activity only takes a few minutes if you use your intuition and don’t over think it.  When you write your obituary, you’ll discover what you truly hope to accomplish in life.  What you want others to say about you when you’re gone, what you want them to remember you for, and what your life’s work should be.  Each day, in everything that you think, do, and say, keep this obituary in mind and strive to support your sincerest hopes and dreams for the person you would like to be.

5. Imagine yourself without a job.  Your own job doesn’t seem so bad now, right?  You may love, hate, or feel somewhere in the middle about your job.  You never know what exciting new and different places your career has in store for you.  But today, you have a paycheck, and a place to be each morning, and people counting on you.  To imagine yourself without these things is to be grateful for them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The 0.7% Non-Solution by CFO Magazine

CFO Magazine recently published an article by Scott Leibs entitled The 0.7% Non-Solution.

0.7% being the percentage of CFOs who expect their companies to hire new full-time employees during the next 12 months.  It’s a dismal number, and if we’re counting on this number as our hope for improved employment in the United States, well, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in that basket.

People need work, and companies need workers.  Because they aren’t able to hire, the employees they do have are stretched thin, being forced to pick up the gaping slack left by layoffs and hiring freezes.  Meanwhile, a company’s people are everything.  How well can companies grow, if their workforces can’t grow with them?

Survey numbers released by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business point to an alternative solution.  CFOs’ expected percentage of outsourced jobs steadily rose from 2.5% in September 2009 to 5.5% in June 2010.  By enlisting the help of a staffing agency to streamline processes, handle administrative tasks, and manage employees, companies continue to hire, and people continue to work.

We, like Scott Liebs, hope that 0.7% rises.  In the meantime, we should absolutely drive 9.6% - the current rate of unemployment – down.